Communicating with Your Athletes
Remember earlier when we said, "It all starts with how you are utilizing your time, space and tools while in the gym?"
Let's get back to that...
Because becoming more efficient in any aspect of coaching dwindles down to communicating effectively.
It may seem obvious, it may seem cliche' - but communication really is key.
And there are more interesting and effective ways than just talking with your players and staff more often - it's how you talk, it's where you talk, it's why you talk, and it's even what is not talked about.
Pro Tip: Create a mission statement with your staff.
With a mission statement in place, communication will instantly become easier.
Because you and your staff are more unified, all working towards the same end goal and knowing what you each need to contribute to get there. It may seem daunting to create a mission statement.
Start by breaking down your core values as a team and keep it simple.
That's what AS Roma did. Their mission statement was "to put the athlete at the center of all decision making." Simple. But effective. Because, it may go unsaid, but once it is said, it's on the mind of all staff members and is then communicated to the athletes.
If a mission statement isn't really your style, there are other systems to get your staff unified and talking.
At Texas A&M, that system is bi-weekly or monthly performance staff meetings.
Tanna Burge and her fellow performance staff all get together in the same room to talk about their biweekly goals.They go over trends they have noticed with their athletes and changes they'll implement to increase performance.
By doing this, Burge has noticed a stronger level of trust amongst the coaching staff. Every athlete feels confident and important knowing that each staff member is working to improve and become better coaches to help them enhance their performance. It also makes the athletes more accountable, especially for student athletes. Once they are aware that everyone on staff is communicating and 'knows whats up' they become more reliable.
Communicating with your athletes is just as important as communicating effectively with your staff. Your words as a coach can make or break an athlete's performance. In a study done, it was found that high level teenage athletes were experiencing burnout in their sport due to lack of communication. Because of poor communication, the athletes felt they weren't being supported and the stress of a demanding environment broke them down.
What is the solution here?
- Checkins with your athletes
This can be done in person or online. By simply checking in with your athlete about what is going on, you can gain crucial insight how stressors will impact performance. Often times, there is more going on in your athlete's life than just sport; especially for student athletes as they can experience a variety of stressors that will inevitably impact their progress. By checking in with them you will:
- Gain better insight into their upcoming performance.
- Learn how to solve any issue that may be occurring, such as continuous fatigue.
- Deepen your bond with your athlete.
Knowing they have a support system and someone to talk to when they are struggling or even when nothing is wrong can go a long way. Ideally you are creating an environment where they feel safe and able to excel, thus preventing stress and potential burn out.
4. Positive & quality feedback to your athletes
Receiving feedback from you is a huge tool for your athletes on their road to improvement. Your feedback can be a way to motivate them to work hard and make the needed changes to get better. This is where positive coaching can be very effective.
Want to jump ahead and read about that now? Go for it.
By giving praise to an athlete that is doing their movement well can spark motivation in your other athletes. Use your athletes as an example for one another in a positive way, rather than an example of what not to do. The feedback should be constructive. Give them areas of which to improve, rather than citing their failures.
Read more about effective communication with your athletes.
We know communication can be hard, especially in elite sports when athletes are traveling all around the world. Language becomes a road block in effective communication. But have no fear, we picked up some tips from Roma's staff who had to learn to creatively communicate with their players; a tough assignment since it meant communicating with players from 13 different nationalities.
Learn how "coaching like a caveman" can be most effective when you don't speak the native tongue. Check it out
About the Author
At Bridge, we are all athletes and coaches first. As athletes, our team has experienced everything from riding the pine on JV, to winning NCAA championships, to competing in the Olympic Games. As coaches, we have helped countless athletes reach their full potential, winning everything from age group section championships to Olympic Gold Medals.